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Reviewed by Will Harris
f there’s one ‘70s Saturday morning TV truism that holds up under scrutiny, it’s that you can’t go wrong with “Super Friends.” They’re awesome, and they always will be. And yet, after screening the latest two-disc set of the series, which focuses specifically on “The All New Super Friends Hour,” it has to be said that there are so many cringe-worthy moments that it almost kills the nostalgia factor. Not quite, but almost.
The 1970s was when DC Comics finally started trying to play catch-up with Marvel. They began to set aside the imaginary stories and over-the-top adventures, replacing them with grittier stories that collided with the real world. You’d never have known it from the adventures of the Super Friends, though. Over on ABC, Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were busy battling losers like Drs. Fright and Droid and saving the planet from half-baked alien invaders such as the Earthors and the Hydronoids. Oooh, scary! But no, really. One suspects that the reason all those awesome DC villains were culled together the following year for “Challenge of the Super Friends” is because the writers rebelled. (“Dude, there are, like, a thousand awesome villains in the comic books already. Why are we making up stories about The Planet of the Neanderthals when we can just use them?”)
Despite the lame excuses for evildoers, what makes “The All New Super Friends Hour” worth a smile or two are the interstitial segments. Remember those one-page “adventures” in the comics where Superman would stop kids from spraying graffiti on a wall or Wonder Woman would fly by in her invisible jet to remind everyone about the importance of a good breakfast? We get animated versions of those kinds of lessons, including one of my personal favorites, where Batman reminds Robin that even in the Hall of Justice, one shouldn’t overload electrical outlets with too many plugs, lest you blow a fuse. (“Holy potential electrocution! Thanks, Batman!”) The Wonder Twins’ adventures are also an artifact of a kinder, gentler era, back when superheroes had so few issues on their plate that they could tackle such pressing teen-related topics as hitchhiking gone bad or kids taking an airplane for a joyride.
One gets the impression, however, that the persons responsible for compiling this set never actually bothered to check out their handiwork. The first episode ends with promises of what to expect in the second episode, but when the second episode begins, it bears absolutely no resemblance to that description…and the trend continues at the end of that episode, throughout the rest of both discs! Yes, the set is pointedly labeled “Season One – Volume One,” but, hey, how about we at least get the season in order, huh?
Special Features: As usual, the best part of these “Super Friends” sets are the new documentaries where various comic book, animation, and television historians sit around and spend 10 percent of the time praising the show and 90 percent completely taking the piss out of it. This time around, we get “One Dimensional Goodness: The Super Friends and the Good Old Days” and “Origins of the Guest Stars.” The latter is more factual than mocking, discussing the histories of the DC heroes who popped up for a guest spot or two, such as Green Lantern, the Atom, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but there’s definitely a fair amount of mocking involved when speaking of Rima the Jungle Girl. “One Dimensional Goodness,” however, is simultaneously funny and sad. It is full of discussions from frustrated writers, grousing about how the organization Action for Children’s Television threatened to take away the licenses of the various networks if they didn’t use more responsibility when making Saturday morning cartoons. “You wanna say ‘kill’? You wanna say ‘dead’? You can’t,” says writer Stan Berkowitz. “Well, what do you do? ‘I’m going to destroy you! Your fate is sealed!’ Awful, awful dialogue. And you couldn’t get around it.”